10 Ways Growing Up Abroad has NOT Prepared Me for College Life in the US

Nirzar Pangarker

I just finished writing a university entrance essay with this prompt: “How has living abroad prepared you for US university life?”

Here’s what I wanted to say…

1. I’ve never driven a car in my life (except for a tractor in China), but I can maneuver through international airports.

I live in Hiroshima, Japan, where public transportation is much simpler than driving a car. To me, sorting out cancelled flights or undergoing a 10-hour layover in a bustling international airport sounds less terrifying than navigating American street signs during a driving test.

2. I don’t remember what a check looks like, but I’m a proficient bargainer.

The last time I saw a check was when I practiced signing a fake one in my fourth-grade American math workbook. But thanks to night markets in Thailand and day bazaars in Hong Kong, I’ve learned the tricks of finagling the honest price out of street vendors — despite my disadvantageous Western appearance.

3. I’m not accustomed to American mannerisms, but I have eagle eyes when it comes to cultural observation and assimilation.

Except for a few miscellaneous slip-ups (like the time my twin sister and I were visiting US colleges and she accidentally bowed to the cafeteria lady) we’ve learned to be cultural chameleons. Don’t know what a cultural chameleon is? Becoming one goes something like this: Enter new culture. Observe. Copy. Observe more. Listen. Copy better. Go shopping for a new wardrobe. Slowly blend in.

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2 Comments Add yours

  1. Anna says:

    Thanks for the list. 🙂 My oldest is 15, and we will be facing many of these adjustments a few years down the road!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. clporter23 says:

    Absolutely love this! I’m a TCK myself – was born in England but left when I was 11 months old and have been abroad since. I’ve been at uni in the UK now for almost three years now and I still find myself realising how much of an alien I am, especially the pop culture thing! Everyone here knows this one song from a TV show they all grow up with and when it comes on somewhere they’ll all get up and sing it word-for-word… I pretend I’m on the phone or taking a really long sip from my drink just to get out of the situation!
    Always nice to talk to someone who knows where you’re coming from:)


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